Uh Oh, Jo’s Angry
I just made the terrible mistake of reading an inflammatory, anti-veterinarian, anti-vaccination article over at the respected scientific institution known as “Dogs Naturally magazine”. It has the classy title “Five Things Your Vet Says That Aren’t True” – clearly an attempt at clickbaiting (well done you guys, mission accomplished). At first I thought, meh, whatever. These sort of people can (and will!) believe what they want. They will spout whatever non-evidence-based, anecdotal, nonsensical crap they want all over the internet like an explosive case of Parvovirus diarrhoea. They will raise their voices and use big words and do their best to induce outrage and win people to their cause.
The problem is, despite reading their article several times, silly old me just can’t work out what that cause even is!
I think what they’re trying to say is ‘vets are bad, m’kay?’
Why should I care?
Well I care because that article has had over 5000 shares at this point. That’s over 5000 pet owners as well as their friends, who are reading it and maybe even believing some of it. First and foremost as a veterinarian, I am an advocate for animal health, and while most vets will understandably maintain a dignified silence, I feel as though I need to speak up and set the record straight.
While “Five Things Your Vet Says That Aren’t True” is apparently supposed to be about over-vaccination of pets, it really just appears to be a self-righteous and poorly written exercise in vet bashing. There is the occasional pearl of wisdom such as “it only takes ONE vaccine to protect a puppy for life – ONE AND DONE.” Thanks for that one guys, now my left eye won’t stop twitching. I think I may have just overdosed on stupid.
According to them, “immunity is taught by the vaccine manufacturer” to us vets, which is why we are mindlessly inserting needles full of dangerous vaccines into your pets. They do their utmost to breed distrust in the veterinary industry as a whole, saying that those setting the guidelines for veterinarians, such as the AVMA, can’t be trusted because they “have a financial interest in how often you vaccinate your dog.”
Really, guys? That’s the best you can do?
And don’t forget the most obvious point. Vets see big fat dollar signs when we think about needlessly vaccinating all those innocent pets. We have special secret meetups where we sit around like fat cats and laugh at the idiot, chump pet owners who put their trust in evil bastards like us.
Calling All Vets – We Could Be Rich!
I mean, we are SO STUPID! We don’t even realise that if we just agree with these guys and let all the puppies get Parvovirus, (or anything else we protect against with vaccines – pick your poison) we’ll be able to live lavish lifestyles. On our breaks at work we could eat caviar and sip french champagne while swimming in our giant piles of cash. Our hospital wards will be full of dogs suffering horribly, that will likely die despite our best efforts to save them, but shit, we’ll make a ton of money. Dogs Naturally is doing us a massive favour!
High five, you guys!
In reality, what happens when we encounter an unvaccinated dog with Parvovirus is somewhat less glamorous. Entering our consult room is a miserable, collapsed puppy in shock with bloody vomit, bloody diarrhoea, and in extreme pain, because essentially it’s intestines are sloughing off. We leap into action using all that veterinary medicine you scorn and fear to help the puppy fight for its life. We watch that dog 24 hours a day, treat it with the best supportive treatment options available (there is no specific treatment for this virus), and most likely see it die in a pool of it’s own blood, vomit and diarrhoea anyway – from a preventable disease.
We tenderly put the frail, lifeless baby into a body bag. We then get in our car and go home that night where we cry. Over time, some of us get depressed, and too many choose to end their own lives due to the overwhelming stress and ongoing heartbreak that can go hand in hand with being a veterinary professional.
I am not saying you should feel sorry for us. I’m saying we do our god damned best every single day and maybe you should be trying to work with us to ensure the happiness and health of every dog, instead of writing articles that not only demean and bully veterinarians, but which leave pet owners feeling like they don’t know who they can trust.
Wait, Is This So-Called ‘Dr Jo’ Even Qualified To Discuss Vaccines?
You know what, Dogs Naturally magazine staff member? You probably know more than I do about all of this. I mean, heck, I only have have a science degree in pharmacology and immunology, and a veterinary science degree with honours. And nearly a decade treating dogs day in and day out. You totally trump that, unnamed author, because someone taught you how to type and you figured out how to do a Google search. And don’t worry about remaining anonymous, I wouldn’t put my name to that article either.
Quotes From The Article – Some Amusing, Others Downright Dangerous
“Dogs can only get parvovirus once”
Most dogs infected with parvovirus will only get it once (not 100%). Many of these dogs only get it once because their owners cannot afford the several days of intensive care to pull them through. Dead dogs can’t catch parvo.
“Vaccines stimulate circulating antibodies, called humeral immunity (sic), and they bypass the memory cells. This creates an artificial immunity called humoral bias and this essentially turns the immune system inside out.”
Okay guys, I thought maybe you had me on this one. I was skeptical, but “humoral bias” and “artificial immunity” sound like scary stuff. Maybe I wasn’t as up to date on the science as I thought?… So I scoured the literature, animal and human. I went through my textbooks with a fine toothed comb.
Uh oh, Dogs Naturally – I came up empty handed! In my research I was unable to find one single reputable source for your claims regarding the inside-outness of a vaccine-abused immune system. Here’s an example of what comes up in a search for such things…….. That’s right. Nothing whatsoever to support your stance.
The truth is, both humoral and cell-mediated immunity are important. Both have a role in immunity against parvovirus, distemper, and canine adenovirus (infectious canine hepatitis). These are the three viruses covered by our core vaccine in Australia (we don’t have rabies). The modified-live vaccines we use induce both humoral immunity AND a cell-mediated immune response.³
It is actually the virus-neutralising antibodies that are most important. This means there is a good correlation between antibody levels and protection against disease, and is why antibody titers can be a useful indicator of level of protection.
“choosing to vaccinate a puppy at 6 weeks means exposing him to the most disease ridden location he could possibly be in – the vet clinic – while creating immune suppression at the same time. Your puppy is much more likely to get the disease he is being vaccinating for, and all in exchange for a 30% chance the vaccine will work.”
This is the part that really scared me the most. Please, show me where you found this data. You know, the studies indicating puppies are being infected while they’re in the vet clinic by the very diseases we’re vaccinating for.
I’d love to see it!
Oh right, it doesn’t exist because you made it up.
And now there will be people who, based on your advice, avoid taking their puppies for important health checks. Both of my children were born in a hospital. SHIT! I’m lucky they weren’t killed in that filthy, disease-ridden place. Next time I’ll definitely stay home. Thanks Dogs Naturally!!
“The reason the vaccine is unlikely to work at that young age is because the puppy is protected against disease with maternal antibodies – immunity passed down from his mother. This protection wanes over time, but is still pretty strong at 6 weeks.”
A recent study4 showed that vaccination aids in the prevention of disease caused by CPV-2c (parvovirus) when administered to puppies as young as 6 weeks of age with maternal CPV antibodies. We start vaccinations early because we want the window of susceptibility to be as small as possible. This is the danger time between when maternally-derived antibodies can no longer protect the puppy and when the puppy can make its own antibodies due to vaccination.
Also this statement assumes the mother was up to date on her vaccines. If her owner followed your “ONE AND DONE” protocol, or didn’t vaccinate her at all, guess what, probably no maternal antibodies for her puppies.
“you can’t be partially protected: immunity is like being a virgin, you either are or you aren’t. Either the immune system has filed that information away or it hasn’t: there is no grey area, you are either immune or you are not.”
There are entire textbooks written about immunology because it’s a pretty complex topic. Basic common sense tells us that things are not going to be this black and white. In some situations it is possible for partial immunity to result in decreased duration and/or severity of disease.
“Not only do core vaccines last for the life of the animal, vets have known about this for about forty years! We won’t even go into why annual vaccination is a very, very bad choice – because vaccinating every three years or every five years is also a bad choice based on unsound science.”
By all means, please point me in the direction of the peer reviewed study you read proving this ‘fact’. Oh wait, the study you refer to again and again and again ad nauseam (Schultz, 1999) says immunity to core vaccines is three years for rabies and seven years for others.
I guess 3-7 years probably is “the life of the animal” if people follow your recommendations. Not only are your references cherry picked, but they also contradict your claims anyway.
A Quick Note On Something Called Anecdotal Evidence
It’s not science. It represents what happened to one person, at one point in time, and cannot be used to make generalizations. The comments section of the article is rife with it. Just because someone’s aunt’s neighbour’s daughter-in-law says her dog hasn’t had a vaccination in 15 years and is still going strong, it doesn’t mean vaccinations aren’t necessary. It means she was lucky, and that her animal was protected by herd immunity. Nothing more. It’s like someone saying they’ve been drinking and driving for years and never had an accident. Have they been at greater risk of an accident? Of course they have! And maybe the next time they pull out of their driveway will be the last.
This also applies to all the people who claim their dog has some sort of heinous disease caused by vaccination. Does their dog eat food? Is it on any sort of worm or flea prevention? Do they give it treats? Do they know the content of their dog’s genome? There are myriads of variables, and there is NO WAY they can say with certainty that it has anything to do with vaccination.
Anecdotal evidence is easy, I can do it too! That gorgeous dog in the top photo is my own 12 year old Border Collie, Anika. She is fighting fit and her blood tests last month were perfection. I vaccinate her triannually for parvo, distemper and hepatitis, and annually for canine cough.
Three Little Facts About Parvo That Make Appropriate Vaccination Crucial
FACT: Dogs of all ages are susceptible if they do not have sufficient immunity.
FACT: Dogs 6 weeks to 6 months of age are most susceptible to infection because maternal antibody interferes with active immune responses to vaccines.¹
FACT: More than 90% of dogs infected with Parvovirus will die without treatment.²
The Bottom Line On Dog Vaccination
I recommend referring to the guidelines set out by WSAVA (The World small animal veterinary association), which are based on current science about vaccination of our pets. Of course science and medicine are always evolving and progressing, but at this point in time, the best recommendations we can offer for dogs is to complete a puppy course of vaccinations, boost one year subsequently, then once every three years thereafter (core vaccines). The situation is different for non-core vaccines. The necessity of these depends on where you live and the risk to your individual pet.
I would strongly recommend against following the recommendations of those with no qualifications whatsoever but a clear agenda to vilify veterinarians.
I’d love to hear your opinions lovely readers, but please know that anything deemed nasty or offensive will not be published. Peace out.
¹Risk factors associated with parvovirus enteritis in dogs: 283 cases (1982-1991). : J Am Vet Med Assoc. 208:542–546 1996 ²Canine parvoviral enteritis: a review of diagnosis, management, and prevention. : J Vet Emerg Crit Care. 14:167–176 2004 ³Ettinger S, Feldman C: Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 7th Edition. p 854 2010 4Glover S, Anderson C, Piontkowski M, Ng T: Canine Parvovirus CPV) type 2b vaccine protects puppies with maternal antibodies to CPV when challenged with virulent CPV-2c virus. Int J Appl Res Vet Med 10(3):217-224 2012